Sunday, August 16, 2015

DIY Call Center with Call-Forwarding

One thing most startups need, but can't afford to spend much time setting up: a hotline.

We first started with a phone lying around the office dedicated to the hotline. This is very easy to set up and is also cheap. The problem we faced: who answers the phone after office hours (a startup might want to support customers even on weekends)? No one it seems.

The solution to our problem was a DIY call center, based on Twilio: customers call a number hosted by Twilio, which forwards the call to up to 5 different phone numbers. The first one to pick up can speak to the customer immediately. This works fine for us right now, however, it also brings a few problems with it:

  • It seems the lag increases drastically (varies from call to call though) because - I think - the call always flows through Twilios datacenter first.
  • For the same reason (call constantly goes through Twilio) you have to pay although you're being called. No big deal as long as you only receive a few calls a day.
  • Nobody knows if someone else picked up eventually (nor do you know who picked up). This can be solved using a separate internal chat of course, but it should be optimized in the future.
  • If one of the phones forwarded to is offline the whole hotline is unreachable for some reason. I'm sure this could be fixed with some manual tweaking.

Setup is incredibly easy:
  1. purchase a phone number on twilio.com
  2. configure the "Request URL" to be the URL generated by the Simulring Twimlet
  3. wait for calls
  4. ...
  5. hopefully PROFIT